JANUARY 27, 2011
Financial Crisis Archive Stirs Fear of Class Actions
The commission set up by Congress to dig into the U.S. financial crisis is releasing more than its final report today, as it begins putting online a trove of investigative documents.
Lawyers for companies at the center of the crisis have wondered what might become of the documents, given that, as The National Law Journal reported in August, they had been internal to the companies and could be of interest to the plaintiffs’ bar. Many of those companies have already been battling proposed securities class actions.
The archive appears on the Web site of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and hundreds of documents are already up, including testimony and court filings. At a news conference this morning, Phil Angelides, the commission’s chairman and a former California state treasurer, said the commission would be posting more, including “research and investigative documents, audio and transcripts.”
Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, criticized that plan. “The commission’s final report and its pledge to post raw materials — apparently including information obtained from companies as well as other government agencies — is an astounding abuse of process that would effectively create a government-sanctioned Wikileaks,” Rickard said in a formal statement today.
Angelides did not address those concerns during the news conference, and a spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment this afternoon.
Last year, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) took aim at one of the commission’s members, Byron Georgiou, and a staff member, Christopher Seefer, because they are on leave from plaintiffs firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd. The firm handles some securities litigation. Georgiou is of counsel there, while Seefer, who was the commission’s director of investigations, is a partner.
At the time, Angelides responded that there was no conflict of interest because commission policies prohibit staff members from disclosing information the commission hasn’t itself released.